Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Fierce Festival – Prayer, James Webb

I don't know if anyone else has had this experience when engaged in a dialogue with an artwork, you can clearly see what the artist is attempting to say, you understand how you as the precipitant are meant to interact and what response the work is meant to generate within you and yet you suspect that this is an intellectual response, that's good isn't it? At least it shows that your where paying some attention during your Contextual Studies lectures, right?

This is the experience I had while 'immersed' in James Webb's installation piece Prayer, which is the first part of the Fierce Festival I've seen. As I walk pass the cheery Hello of the invigilators I enter the larger church like space of The Old Library to be greeted by what looks like a slightly tatty looking carpet with speakers poking out of it. The installation is already being experienced by a group of students who lay in-between the speakers, attentively listening to the mix of religious sounds raising from the floor, how do I their attentively listening? They have their eyes closed, which often seems the way people experience sound art.

Anyway I join them at the back of the space, and think about the interplay of sound and space, giggle when I recognise the words of Aleister Crowley come through the ethers. As I watch the others lay there I realise that I am not really sure how to interact with this piece when I think this it occurs to me that this could be due to my secularism, how do you act among this confusing mess of faiths? I know we are expected to drop to our knees in an act resembling prayer and I do this but still something nags at me, something isn't quite right. Part of me is looking for direct, looking for some priest figure to anoint me into some kind of ceremony where the religious aspects will come to the fore.

Perhaps this sensation of something 'missing' is as much an unexpected reaction to the cascade of religious sounds as it is to the experience of the installation as a whole. I wonder if it's a reflection of the difficult position religion currently has within a secular world but I feel that stems from me making those connections rather it being something inherent within the piece. It could been the overall lack of an atmosphere that has added to this sensation that this installation could have been so much more.

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